The Punjab police conducted several late-night raids on the houses of prominent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders ahead of the party’s planned long march to Islamabad on May 25.
Despite its prior claims of tolerance towards the PTI protest, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led coalition government launched a crackdown targeting PTI leaders late on Monday night.
The developments came after a meeting of senior PML-N leaders took place in Model Town, Lahore yesterday (Monday), which was chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and joined by his brother Nawaz Sharif via video.
During the meeting, it was decided that the coalition government would complete its full tenure instead of calling early elections, as PTI had been demanding.
The raids took place two days after former human rights minister Shireen Mazari was arrested and subsequently released, following which PTI chairperson Imran Khan announced the date for the long march on Sunday.
Police raided the house of former finance minister Hammad Azhar, who was not home at the time, alarming his aged parents. PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid filmed the incident from outside Azhar’s house.
The houses of former information secretary Farrukh Javed and MPA Sadia Sohail were also raided, as were the residences of Sheikh Rashid in Rawalpindi and Usman Dar in Sialkot, among others.
Meanwhile during a raid at PTI leader’s house in Model Town, police constable Kamal Ahmad was fatally shot.
Reports indicate that around 73 party workers have also been arrested.
The move by the government seems contradictory in light of recent assurances given by PM Shehbaz’s spokesperson Malik Ahmad Khan, who said it had been decided to not arrest any PTI worker ahead of the march.
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal had also claimed in a presser on Monday, that the coalition government believed in the democratic right to peacefully protest, and that Imran wouldn’t be stopped as long as his actions remained within the bounds of the Constitution.